Vol. xlii # 3
The Alienated Society
by Paolo Freire
Paolo Freire (Brasil, 1921-1997) was an educator and philosoper who was one of the most significant Latin American thinkers of the 20th century. His key work from 1968, The Pedagogy of the Oppressed, is the theoretical base of teatro la fragua's mission statement. This article sums up one of his basic concepts which we try to speak to in the teatro: the alienated society
When human beings try to imitate others, they are no longer themselves. In the same way, the slavish imitation of other cultures produces an alienated society or object society. The more a person wants to be someone else, the less he is himself.
The alienated society has no consciousness of its own existence. An alienated professional is an inauthentic being. His thinking is not committed to himself, he is not responsible. The alienated being does not look at reality with personal criteria but with someone else's point of view. That is why he lives an imaginary reality and not his own objective reality. He lives through the vision of another country. One lives in Russia or the United States, but not in Chile, Peru, Guatemala or Argentina.
The alienated being does not seek an authentic world. This provokes nostalgia; he longs for another country and regrets having been born in his own. He is ashamed of his reality. He lives in the other country and tries to imitate it and thinks he is cultured while he is less native. Before a foreigner he will try to hide the marginal populations and will show residential neighborhoods, because he thinks that the most cultured cities are the ones with the tallest buildings. As alienated thinking is not authentic, it does not translate into concrete action.
We have to start from our possibilities to be more ourselves. The error is not in imitation but in the passivity with which this imitation is received or in the lack of analysis or self-criticism. Bolivians or Panamanians are thought to be lazy, because they are. That is why they try to be less Bolivian or Panamanian. It is believed that to be great is to imitate the values of other nations. However, greatness is expressed through one's own native vocation.
Another example of alienation is the preference of foreign technicians to the detriment of nationals.
The alienated society does not know itself; it is immature, has exemplary behavior: it tries to know the reality through foreign diagnoses.
The leaders solve the problems with formulas that have given results abroad. They import problems and solutions. They do not know the native reality. Before admitting foreign solutions, we should ask ourselves what were the conditions and characteristics that caused those problems. Because the 80's or 90's of Russia or the United States are not the 80's or 90's of Chile or Argentina. We are contemporaries in time, but not in technique. For the rest, foreign technicians arrive with fabulous solutions, out of prejudice, which do not correspond to our idiosyncrasy.
Imported solutions must be sociologically reduced, that is to say, studied and integrated in a native context. They must be criticized and adapted; in this case, the import is reinvented or re-created. This is already disalienation which means nothing but self-valorization.
Generally, the elites blame the people for being lazy or incapable and that is why their solutions did not work. Thus, the attitudes of the leaders oscillate between naïve optimism and pessimism or despair. It is naive to think that simply importing solutions will save the people. This happens to political candidates who, not knowing in depth the problems of power, make thousands of promises and when they get to power they find thousands of obstacles that, sometimes, make them fall into pessimism. It is not dishonesty, but naiveté.
teatro la fragua has defined its basic mission: To awaken the creativity of the pueblo by means of the theatre, so the people find their own solutions for their present predicament. The theatre thus becomes an educational alternative which can express to the same people and to the world the richness, the beauty and the power of Honduran and Central American values. This is an especially urgent task at this historical moment characterized by the phenomenon of economic and cultural globalization which marginalizes and excludes those cultures which are considered "inferior".
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